A young widow who lost her husband got to see his face again after it was donated in transplant to a man who survived an attempted suicide 10 years ago.
Lilly Ross was already eight months pregnant when she lost her husband, Calen – nicknamed Rudy – after he took his own life last year in Southern Minnesota.
Despite the tragic circumstances she agreed to donate his organs and body.
Sixteen months after giving her consent she met the recipient who received Rudy’s face, Andy Sandness.
In 2006 Sandness’ face had been destroyed when he tried to end his own life using a rifle.
Fortunately he survived the ordeal but the damage to his face seemed irreparable, he had to live with a rebuilt face, a mouth a quarter of its normal size, and a prosthetic nose which kept falling off before undergoing 56 hours of surgery.
A team of 60-plus medics were brought in to perform the surgery after doctors realised Sandess and Ross were near-perfect matches in terms of age, blood type, skin tone and facial structure, reports ITV.
Naturally Lilly had been hesitant to meet Andy and even told him how ‘scared’ she was when they eventually met each other. She was stunned, and perhaps relieved, to discover Andy didn’t turn out to be a look-a-like of her late husband.
However she was stunned at how familiar his face felt, saying:
The hair even feels like Rudy’s hair, it’s so weird.
During their emotional meeting she showed him pictures of her and Rudy during happier times and even introduced her son Leonard – who sadly never met his dad.
Following the meeting she said she wants Andy to have some sort of role in her son’s life, as she wants him to know the man who has his father’s facial features, adding that ‘he’s pretty much family’.
Sandness, who works as an oilfield electrician, wants to repay Lilly’s kindess by contributing towards an education trust for her and Rudy’s son.
Since receiving the transplant he said:
You basically have an obligation now to show them that this has given you everything you ever wanted.
You can stand in the elevator and not have to hide your face because you’re scared that you’re scaring other people
Now I’m able to go chew food, go sit down in restaurants. It’s been unbelievable.
If you’ve been affected by the this story and would like to talk to someone about it you can call the Samaritans 24 hour hotline on 116 123 (116 123 for Republic of Ireland).
Alternative you can visit their website here.